Becoming Jane Review
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As an English major, I read a heck of a lot of Jane Austen. I devoured her novels, and I watched the movies with my literature-loving [female] friends on Saturday nights. I dreamed of being one of her characters, attending lavish balls and marrying a sweet, sensitive man who also happens to have a huge inheritance and a gigantic estate.

Though I’ve still never attended a ball—and I live with the sweet guy I married in a modest bi-level (without a single servant, no less!)—I still love Austen’s work. So when I heard there was a movie in the works about Austen herself, I couldn’t wait to see it. To me, it was even more exciting than the release of Spider-Man 3.

Anne Hathaway gives a rather surprisingly strong performance as a young Jane Austen. Though she’s of marrying age, Jane remains unmarried—because she’s determined to marry for love. Her sister, Cassandra (Anna Maxwell Martin), is about to do just that—she’s engaged to a clergyman who’s serving as a chaplain on a long voyage in hopes of making enough money to support his bride.

Though Jane’s mother (Julie Walters) hopes that Jane will one day marry shy Mr. Wisley (Laurence Fox), only heir of the wealthy Lady Gresham (Maggie Smith), Jane isn’t worried about money—because she intends to earn her own living as a novelist. But then the prim and proper Jane meets notorious London bad boy Tom Lefroy (James McAvoy), who’s visiting his country relatives as punishment for his wild behavior—and she begins to realize what her life has been missing.

Fortunately, Becoming Jane is as beautiful and enchanting as I hoped it would be. Austen is portrayed exactly as I’ve always imagined her—a little bit naïve, yet sharp-witted and strong-willed. And though I was somewhat skeptical of Hathaway in the role, her performance was a pleasant surprise. In fact, I’d even go so far as to say that her performance was better than that of Renée Zellweger, who recently played another well-loved female British author in Miss Potter. While Miss Potter had a more polished, Hollywood feel to it, though, Becoming Jane has a simpler, more BBC kind of feel to it. But even if you love a little Hollywood flash, don’t think that Becoming Jane’s simpler approach is a bad thing—because it feels just right that way. It may not be as magical as Miss Potter, but it’s a delightful film nonetheless.

If you’ve never been a fan of Austen or her novels, however, you might find Becoming Jane to be a bit slow—especially as it approaches its end. Actually, there was a critic snoring through most of the movie, not far from where I was sitting—so, obviously, he wasn’t as enchanted as I was. But if you’re a fan of Jane Austen (or of British period pieces in general), you’ll be sure to fall in love with Becoming Jane—and, after watching it, you’ll want to know even more about this fascinating author.

DVD Review:
Seeing Becoming Jane made me fall in love with Jane Austen all over again. It inspired me to dust off my old Austen novels and pick up Jon Spence’s biography, Becoming Jane Austen. So I was thrilled to find that the Becoming Jane DVD takes an even closer look at Jane Austen’s life and the time in which she lived.

From many of the deleted scenes, you’ll get more insight into Austen’s life—and her circumstances. The audio commentary with the movie’s writer, director, and producer often wanders off into discussions about late-eighteenth-century England. You can even watch the movie with pop-up facts and footnotes—a kind of classy Pop-Up Video, sharing facts about the movie, about Austen’s life, and about the historical context. Even the making-of feature—which takes a behind-the-scenes look at the sets and costumes and choreography—offers more insight into Austen’s life and times. History buffs and literary types alike will be astonished by the abundance of facts.

While the DVD isn’t as feature-heavy as you might expect (a BBC biography special would have been nice), it still does a wonderful job of enhancing the whole experience. No Jane Austen fan should be without it.

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